Independent medias importance has come to the forefront of American life in the past couple decades in the past few decades. From covering political scandals to foreign protests, many of these stories have a central theme in common: exposing the powerful and empowering the disenfranchised. Another area of independent reporting that continues that theme is the citizen journalism on police brutality in America’s past several years.
Thanks to the mass proliferation of video-enabled phones and the popularity of video-friendly social media channels like Twitter, individuals unjustly detained or killed by police receive more than an official statement and an obituary. Instead, public documentation and online conversation has forced the issue, including recognition from mainstream media, professional athletes, and the president.
After organizing into the Black Lives Matter movement, the national conversation has been forced back to the issue of police brutality time and time again. While it has received vitriolic backlash, their efforts have not gone unrewarded: killings by law enforcement officers hit 344 in 2013, 630 in 2014, and 845 in 2015, but spiked down to 181 in 2016 – and 2017 seems to be continuing the trend.
The importance of independent journalism does not lie solely with the “celebrity” independent journalists like Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald, valuable as their contributions are. Just as important are the citizens who don’t fancy themselves journalists, but instead see something critical and capture it before those in power can distort the truth. It turns out mass surveillance can be a force for good – it all depends on who’s watching what.